These nine stories span a period from 1975 to 1997 and are a good reflection of the range of Martin Amis's writing, which is always skillful and consistently seductive--sometimes irritatingly so. Amis lures his reader into an intense interest in his characters, and then, in some unsettling way, encourages us to patronize or disparage them. It's an odd strategy, but it holds our attention. By making us uncomfortable about our own less admirable attitudes, he focuses us intently on his story line.
In "Coincidence of the Arts," the targets are the feckless painter Sir Rodney Peel and his black doorman, aspiring novelist Pharsin Courier, who turns to him for artistic encouragement. When Peel embarks on a curious affair with a black waitress, it is sheer coincidence that she should happen to be Pharsin's wife. The consequences reflect well on neither man. In "State of England," we smirk knowingly at Big Mal, a bullshitting East Ender trying to sort out his life at his small son's sports day, but we are nevertheless compelled to find out what will become of him. Familiar stories about obsessive bad sex such as "Let Me Count the Times" have not stood the test of time, and Amis's tales of literary agents, aspiring novelists, and spoiled bestseller writers may only interest an inner coterie. Still, when he is on form, Amis's work is as deeply alluring as it is amusing. --Lisa Jardine, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
Amis is an ingenious short story writer, and this collection of tales, three of which have not been seen here before, offers a good sampling of his range. This includes, of course, tone-perfect mimicry, which is evident in "State of England," about a disco bouncer with a son at a posh English boys' school, and "What Happened to Me on My Holiday," told in the misspelled, petulant voice of a hurt child. Then there is sharp, edgy comedy based on the notion of role reversal. In "Career Move," much admired when it appeared in the New Yorker six years ago, poets swagger around Hollywood in an atmosphere of big movie deals and heroin-fueled script conferences, while screenplay authors attend eager readings of each other's work and vie desperately for publication in ephemeral little magazines that never pay. "Straight Fiction" supposes that the world is predominantly gay but that outposts of heterosexuality remain in areas like New York's Christopher Street and San Francisco's Castro, exerting a malificent influence on the predominant, comfortable culture. "The Coincidence of the Arts" has an aristocratic and evasive English artist in New York trying to avoid reading an ambitious novel thrust upon him by his black doorman. "The Janitor on Mars" is a satirical science fiction yarn. Amis's work is wonderfully clever and often extremely funny, but there is no escaping a certain steely-eyed coldness at the heart of it. Author tour.
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